BOSTON (AP) — Bud Selig made his first trip to Fenway Park in 1949, when he dragged his mother to the ballpark during a trip East to take in some art museums and other forms of culture. Just as they got to the front of the ticket line, the agent slammed the window shut: The game against the New York Yankees — Selig's favorite team at the time — was sold out.
Selig returned to Fenway on Sunday for his last time as baseball commissioner, joining in for Derek Jeter's farewell tour with a goodbye of his own. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner spent 55 minutes sharing stories with the front office and other Red Sox staff, then was recognized on the field before his last regular-season game as commissioner.
"It gives me chills, just walking through here," Selig said before the game.
Selig was presented with a replica of a plaque that will hang in the Boston Red Sox Auditorium at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, in recognition of his commitment to raising awareness of children's cancer. It was presented to him by a 17-year old Jimmy Fund patient; Selig presented her with the ball for the ceremonial first pitch.
As he was introduced, the public address announcer mentioned that, when the Kansas City Royals clinched a playoff berth this week, every team in the majors has reached the postseason during Selig's 22 years in charge of baseball. Selig said before the game that he was proud teams could be competitive in smaller markets like Pittsburgh and Kansas City, and said when he thinks about the canceled World Series in 1994 he considers it a necessary step.
"I believe that sometimes in life, you have to go through certain things to get to the end of the road," he said.
Calling Fenway one of his two favorite ballparks — the other is the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field — Selig listed among his fondest memories of the century-old Boston field the 1999 All-Star game, when he spent five innings talking to Ted Williams. Before he died in 2002, Williams would call Selig and tell him, "You have the worst ... job in America."
Selig said he has been thinking about how lucky he was to spend so much of his life in baseball, and he was "affected profoundly" on Thursday night when he watched on TV for Derek Jeter's last game in Yankee Stadium. After the Yankees blew a 5-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Jeter singled in the winning run in the bottom half.
"I said to myself, 'This couldn't happen,'" Selig said. "All I could think about was how fortunate we are to have our iconic heroes be the people they are. We've really been lucky. Forget his on-field stuff; his off-field (conduct) is remarkable. It's a great tribute to him, much as (Henry) Aaron was, (Stan) Musial was."
"Thursday night was one of those nights that make you proud to be commissioner of baseball. I don't know what else to say."
The Red Sox are scheduled to give Jeter a sendoff of his own on Sunday, when he plays his final game. One item that won't be on the agenda: a plan to use the recording of longtime Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard to introduce him.
Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said the Yankees, along with Sheppard's family, were OK with it, but Jeter declined.
"He'd like the echoes of Bob Sheppard to stay at Yankee Stadium," Steinberg said.